Review: Reggaeville Easter Special 2015 in Berlin & Hamburg
04/10/2015 by Gardy Stein
War inna Easterville! City Clash Berlin vs. Hamburg
For round three of the Reggaeville Easter Special we thought of something… well… special. Instead of focusing on any one show to report on, Berlin and Hamburg were both chosen to compete against each other - without either one knowing! Discover highlights, flaws and anecdotes of both nights in the following report and feel free to add your own story (especially if you have experienced Munich or Dortmund) in the comments.
As for the inaugural hymn, we have to fast forward to the end: Anthony B closes the Reggaeville Easter Special on Sunday night in Hamburg with the words "Give it up for love! Let us all come together and sing the national anthem of Reggae Music - One Love!"
And now: Kick off!
Astra, Berlin - 8:50pm
A clear but chilly spring night. Located east-central at Warschauer Straße, the "culture house" Astra is a huge ground-level complex with a spacious entrance area, a separate smoking lounge, a pre-stage room (where the warm-up-session by Dirty Ragga Squad is in full swing on our arrival) and the main stage hall. The place is affectionately decorated with GDR-style lights, wallpapers and comfortably padded seats in the corners. A bunch of friendly crew-members at the entrance allow for swift handling of ticket control and wardrobe and thus a relaxed arrival of the roughly 750 visitors.
Fabrik, Hamburg - 7:45pm
Equally clear, equally chilly. We've come a bit early to get some food before we enter, but since doors are supposed to open at 8, we hurry and reach there in time to greet friends & fambily. Doors stay closed until 8:30, however, and it takes another 20 minutes to finally escape the cold since there is only one person handling ticket counter and guest list. Patience is needed at the wardrobe, too, as there is a long row. Once inside, people quickly scatter and fill the ranks above (there are 2 levels upstairs of which the first one is accessible tonight) or find a seat on the wooden benches around the stage where Crucial B is playing a little welcome-set for what is to become a crowd of 900 people.
➡ Location: score Berlin! Number of visitors: score Hamburg!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 1:1
Astra, Berlin - 9:39pm
Something is happening. After the four musicians of the Kingsuns Band have settled in on their instruments ('Riff Raff' on keys, Unga on drums, Groskopf on guitar and Jason Welsh on bass), Neil Robertson takes the mic to announce "Palace Pickney recording artist Jesse Royal!". The man thus introduced enters stage with a radiant smile after an intro of Buju's Small Axe. He gives a 100% from the start, sweeps through Hotter The Battle and gestures the massive to sing along with him in Wadada (which they promptly do). Dressed in a smart denim shirt and dark jeans, he is looking good and he knows it, winking and grinning at the ladies in the audience while his hand lifts up his shirt now and again in a lascivious gesture.
But he is into serious business, too. Before delivering Greedy Babylon, he reminds us to watch what the government tells or the media show us. Then it's Ganja tune time with Gimme Likkle Herb. The song is fervently cheered - it drops on fertile ground as the Berlin people have seen the passage of a "zero-tolerance-law" the Tuesday before.
He proceeds to ask us if he could change the style a little bit and goes slow with Baby Let Me, Feel Your Pain and Singing The Blues: "Everybody got a plan for war, nobody got a plan for peace." Lighters are up, the crowd is gently rocking along until... yes, until he picks up the speed once more, introduces the band and makes everybody move in Preying On The Weak. The subsequent Modern Day Judas has the massive sing along word by word - Jesse really rules the crowd. What a performer! The mood climaxes when the song flows into Chronixx' Here Comes Trouble - Jesse is so enjoying this and has people jumping along with him. "It just start!" he says, announcing Protoje and Anthony B for later. To deafening applause, he proceeds with his last song, This Morning. The sing-along doesn't quite work out (too much lyrics?), but the vibes are amazing. With a final shout of his characteristic battle-cry "People Power!", this wonderful young artist leaves stage and spectators in a trance.
Fabrik, Hamburg - 9:29pm
Neil takes the mic and tells us that the Kingsuns are "one a di hottest bands in Jamaica right now". They start to play as soon as he announces Jesse Royal once more, who enters stage this time with a lion-face-T-shirt, dark trousers and a grey beanie hat. His set is almost the same as the Berlin one; he only sings Butterflies instead of the Blues. What is missing, however, is the direct blast of energy he transported in the capital, at least in the beginning. It might be due to technical problems (there is a lot of feedback going on), but only when people respond strongly to Judas he picks up on the vibe. The dancing frenzy is limited to a hard core in the middle (there are far too many people concentrating to keep their Smartphones steady instead of just flowing with the music), but Jesse's teachings are understood better this time: "Everything you want you can achieve. Never doubt yourself!". After an hour on stage, Mr. Royal disappears and a quick changeover takes place.
➡ Jesse Royal (show & audience): score Berlin!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 2:1
Astra, Berlin - 11:05pm
Since Protoje obviously didn't have the best day (he seemed to be a bit sick), let's just skip the Berlin performance and give it right back to Hamburg!
Fabrik, Hamburg - 10:50pm
Expectancy vibrates through the place. A new band has taken seat behind the instruments: Peter Samaru (drums), Paris LaMont (keys), Kevin Patterson (guitar), Lamont Savory (guitar), Donald Dennis (bass) and backing vocalists Shenae Wright and Keiko Smith are the Indiggnation Band, properly introduced by Paris. He also announces Protoje who, in his laid-back style, sashays on stage, welcomed by raised hands from the crowd to the sounds of I&I. He wears a camouflage jacket, his tam hat and glasses, an outfit as if made for the following track Resist Not Evil. Even Shenae and Keiko match this theme - they represent in olive-green Notis-T-Shirts (Notis is the label and band project of Kingsuns' drummer Unga & bass-player Jason Welsh, as I learn later on).
"Skilful" is repeated now and again by Protoje, and skilfully he leads us through the show. Program, Dread and Protection are delivered much more energetically than in Berlin, and the artist collects everybody on the trip through his new album Ancient Future that is about to follow. The reactions to Bubblin' are amazing - with a sweet smile and outstretched arms, Protoje greets the upper rows and keeps eye contact with the audience at all times. His excursion into Jah9's Steamers A Bubble is vehemently cheered, and excitement peaks when Sudden Flight sees the re-introduction of Jesse Royal. Shenae sings Sevana's part and gets a large forward from the crowd (as in Berlin), so she proceeds with a little freestyle. Protoje is happy: "Oh the band sounds so sweet, don't you agree?" he says and jumps into a rendition of Buju's Champion to which the audience sings along.
A surprise is announced, and Germany's own Sara Lugo joins the master on stage for their sweet duet Really Like You. Although no city can match the reactions she got in Munich (I was told the place went mad!), Hamburg shows more love to her than Berlin; when it comes to dancing, however, the latter clearly takes the lead during Answer To Your Name. Movement!
In the second half of the show by now, the singer dives into Stylin' and Hail Ras Tafari, keeping the energy levels high with keyboarder Paris joining him for a little dance-battle-niceness. After Criminal, hands are up for Who Knows, and Hamburg is at its best, jumping and shouting along. Kingston Be Wise is celebrated likewise, and it is clear that Protoje means it when he says goodbye with the following words "It was a pleasure performing for you tonight!"
➡ Protoje (show & audience): score Hamburg!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 2:2
Fabrik, Hamburg - 00:20am
There is a lengthy pause now, so I head backstage where I not only find the band members to ask for names and set-lists, but also my Reggaeville-colleagues. The mood is giggly and small incidences are followed by bursts of laughter - after 4 days of touring non-stop, three busloads of artists to deal with and a decisive lack of sleep this is actually no surprise.
While the Anthony-B-Crew gets ready for their show, those who are already done pack up or just relax on one of the couches. Jesse and XTM.Nation producer Kareem Burrell take advantage of my marker and add their signatures to the already densely scribbled walls of the backstage room, while the band members exchange their views on which was the best show (as far as I can tell, the race is between Munich and Dortmund). On my way out, somebody remarks "What I like about Hamburg is that people always dress up so nicely!"
➡ Dress code: score Hamburg! Backstage vibes: score Hamburg!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 2:4
Astra, Berlin - 1:10am
Having wandered around a bit during the break, I come back to find a man on stage that's definitely not Anthony B. It turns out he calls himself Jah Clarity and is part of the warm-up along with Kool Johnny Kool, both of which seem a bit out of place. No one really understands why they have to be on the show, as it's certainly not their skill that brought them there.
When they leave and the band starts an intro of Redemption Song, the joyful tension is back. Then, finally, Anthony B enters stage with a booming "Greetings Berlin, how you feeling?" and does what, it seems, he was born to do: perform! He is dressed in black trousers, a black & white T-shirt, matching black head-wrap and sunglasses. Accompanying his songs with incredible moves (what an amazing footwork!), the artist lives up to his nickname in Water Pumpee and Good Life. "Dem call me original Fireman - outside is cold so we haffi heat it up!" says he and lets his action speak louder than words. Calming down a bit during Imagine, especially the passage about Facebook & Co sees a large forward by the audience (both in Berlin and in Hamburg). Nice: Anthony takes his time to big up all the legends who have passed away, including John Lennon, Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller, Michael Jackson, Dennis Brown as well as all the mamas and papas who left us already.
He then powers on, and even though the massive seems to be already in relax-mode, the artist pushes them on. It works! Berlin wakes up once more and adds a serious clapping orchestra to the band. Anthony is jumping again, obviously having fun, and his good mood is infectious: he really gets people to move again at 2:30 am in the morning! Reggaeville is duly mentioned before he proceeds - the artist thanks each and everyone involved in organising this mini-festival.
The following Mr. Heartless is accompanied by a pool of lighters and the vibes don't slack for a second until the show leans toward an end with a rendition of One Love for which he brings the warm-up acts on stage again. Just before he leaves us, he pays his respect to Buju, thus closing the cycle started by Jesse Royal. After a final flourish of the band, this amazing musical experience is over and people slowly move to the other room where Dirty Ragga Squad gets things set for the aftershow-party.
Fabrik, Hamburg - 1:00am
There is nothing much to add, actually, except to introduce the band: Zethroy Thomas (keys), Orrin Bright (the bassplayer with the coolest ever red, green and gold chords), Novelyn Thompson (guitar) and Daniel Barton (drums) are the musicians while Kerine Montague and Saine Rapley add their sweet voices. Anthony B (this time dressed all in white) makes his Hamburg fans as happy as the Berlin ones were, although the overall mood was better in Berlin, especially at the end.
During Police, one of my Reggaeville-colleagues passes me and says jokingly: "Yesterday the fire brigade, today the Police!" Asking him how he means that he explains that after the show in Dortmund, someone accidentally set off the fire alarm and a whole bunch of fire fighters stormed the building - an unpleasant experience at the time, but a funny story to tell all the same.
Anthony B has meanwhile finished his set (as the songs are too numerous to mention every single one of them, find the setlist below) and sends people home with the message: "Love yourself!". He is so right...
➡ Anthony B (show & audience): score Berlin!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 3:4
Fabrik, Hamburg - 2:55 am
The Help Jamaica stand is packing up. Kai says that, even though donations and sales were good everywhere, Hamburg topped it all. Thanks to each and everyone who supported this project by purchasing goodies or telling friends about it!
Generosity: score Hamburg!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 3:5
At the backstage entrance, there is a row of people waiting to get a glimpse of the artists. While Protoje & Co are on their way out already, Anthony greets some of the fans, shooting pictures, kissing female cheeks and receiving self-made presents. One looks like some sort of red-yellow-green elephant, but I wasn't close enough to find out what exactly it was. In Berlin, a tall Bey Fall from Senegal threw a wooden bracelet to Anthony who caught it with a grateful nod.
➡ Fan love: score Hamburg AND score Berlin!
✘ Berlin - Hamburg 4:6
The winner is: Hamburg!
Because I know that I might be accused of being partial and to make sure you don't take it all too serious, I'd like to add a closing note: Competition is a good thing when it inspires people to become faster, wiser, better, when it is a friendly quest for excellence. It should never ever serve to put others down, though! The most important thing is that you enjoy what you are doing, that you use every experience to grow and that you bring positivity to your surroundings, wherever you are and whoever you deal with. It thus doesn't matter where you experienced the Reggaeville Easter Special - it certainly was a feast for each and everyone involved. So big up the Munich massive, big up the Berlin crowd, big up the Dortmund people and big up the Hamburg family! Thanks for your support and thanks to the artists for the wonderful music they brought!!!
VIDEOS & PHOTOS: MUNICH | BERLIN | DORTMUND | HAMBURG
WATCH THE OFFICIAL RECAP VIDEO TO CATCH THE VIBES: